L.A. Schools Ordered to Pay $7.6 Million After Fourth-Grader Has Paralyzing Seizure

A jury ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to pay $7.6 million to the family of an epileptic boy who suffered a seizure at school and is now paralyzed in a minimally conscious state.

Steve Martinez's family claimed the district was liable for the boy's injuries, saying the response to his April 18, 2005, seizure was inadequate.

The district argued that adults responded almost immediately and tried to save the fourth-grader, but good-faith efforts to administer CPR were unsuccessful.

"These are really, really hard cases," said Kenneth Reed, general counsel for the district. "Any time a kid is hurt it's a tragedy. The people who responded tried to do their best."

Steve, now 13, fell while playing on the basketball court at Saticoy Elementary in North Hollywood. The seizure stopped his heart.

According to the family, five to 10 minutes passed before CPR began because no adult was supervising the boy. The playground supervisor who administered CPR also acknowledged lacking specific CPR training; she testified she attended most of a one-day first aid course in the 1960s. The school district noted that a staff member with CPR training was assisting her.

"They had every reason to be prepared because of their own experience with Steve, because of the mother and doctors cautioning them, and because they had already been through a lawsuit," said family attorney Philip Michels.

An earlier jury had awarded the family $361,237 after a 2003 seizure during which Steve suffered burns after falling on the playground atop a metal utility plate heated by the sun. A visiting Marine and the school nurse successfully administered CPR in that case.

The district had offered free transportation for Steve to another school that had a full-time nurse, but his mother rejected it, saying it was "too far from our home and had too many students."

The jury award last week covers pain and suffering, loss of future earnings and medical care for a life expectancy jurors estimated at about 10 years, Michels said.

The district hasn't decided whether to contest the award.